Action research: What is it and how can you use it?

Jo Hockley former Nurse Consultant, and Min Stacpoole, Research Nurse, Care Home Project Team, St Christopher’s Hospice, London, UK, tell us more about action research and how they applied it in a nursing home study. Their post relates to a longer article in the June edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care. 

Jo Hockley

Jo Hockley

Our article in the European Journal of Palliative Care outlines the principles of action research in relation to the implementation of a programme (the Namaste Care programme to help improve the quality of life for people with advanced dementia in care homes with nursing). One can be excused for confusing action research with practice development as both are committed to improving practice; part of our article highlights the differences.

A fundamental principle of action research is collaboration in the research process with people in the setting where the research is being undertaken. However, the degree of collaboration depends on the level of participation by staff in the actual research process. A useful typology of this level of participation by Hart and Bond (1995) is reprinted in our article. We believe that such a typology has not had enough exposure.

Min Stacpoole (right) with Professor Joyce Simard at a conference

Min Stacpoole (right) with Professor Joyce Simard at a conference

In our study, we veered towards an organisational type of action research since, as researchers, we came with the idea of introducing the Namaste Care programme rather than the idea coming from care home staff. The Namaste Care programme is a programme to improve the quality of life for people with advanced dementia and originates from the USA by a professor of social work – Joyce Simard. We needed to see how the programme fitted with the culture of UK care homes.

Developing end-of-life care in care homes is not without its difficulties because of the weak context that care homes have. By ‘weak’, research refers to: the poor medical support; the lack of formal training for the majority of staff, the high turnover of staff including managers of many homes, and the relatively low learning culture. We experienced these difficulties too. However, the action research gave us insights into the process of change and informed our understanding of what is fundamental to providing good quality of life to the end of life for those with advanced dementia.

During the study, the core team in each care home collaborating with us helped to develop a toolkit outlining the implementation of the programme. Details of Namaste Care workshops where this toolkit is available can be found on St Christopher’s website.  The word Namaste was used by Professor Simard to describe the programme because of its meaning: ‘to honour the spirit within.’ Professor Simard felt that it mirrored what Dame Cicely Saunders said:  “You matter because you are you.”

To find out more…

EJPC213-coverTo read a copy of the full article…
‘The use of action research as a methodology in healthcare research’ by Jo Hockley and Min Stacpoole, is published in the June 2014 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 21.3). If you have a web-based subscription to the journal you can download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online. 

Keep up to date with all the news from the 8th EAPC World Research Congress in Lleida – follow us on Twitter @EAPCOnlusour official congress hashtag is #eapc2014 


This entry was posted in EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, European Journal of Palliative Care, RESEARCH and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Action research: What is it and how can you use it?

  1. Gaberielle Linehan says:

    Very interesting article that highlights the need for ongoing supportive work in Care Homes to ensure that people with Dementia at the end of life are in receipt of informed appropriate care. Getting care home staff involved in the research process helps to give value to the work they do.

  2. Pingback: Action research: What is it and how can you use it? | EAPC Blog | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

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